I glance at the clock. It’s been 21 hours since this began. Nearly a full day of sheer terror, battling and exhaustion. The enemy is breathing on my neck. So close to me I’m shivering and I find myself jumping at every small noise. A song begins to play in my mind. It’s a scratchy record which skips often. But the haunting words are clear. They are familiar.
My heart burns with feelin’ but
Oh! but my mind is cold and reeling.
Is this love, baby or is it confusion?
Oh, my head is pounding pounding
going ’round and ’round and ’round
The last time I was this afraid, this tortured and completely out of control, was eight years ago. I was sitting on a bathroom floor, peering up at the mirror to take a quick look at myself. I was afraid to see the mix of blood and tears on my face and the deep gash on my head. Pain, fear, loneliness would all plague me that evening. And the raspy voice of the enemy whispered the lie “I love you. God doesn’t, but I do.”
Eight years later I’m sitting on the floor again. My enemy is not here physically but his spirit is hovering around me like a dark fog. For hours I have tried to see Jesus. I have searched for Him in this room, this house, only to be caught in the midst of an all consuming fog. I panic and run back to my small corner of the room. On the cold wood floor I continue to sit and wait. Waiting for something. Someone perhaps. I grow tired and weak. At one point I fall asleep only to wake up moments later swinging my fists in the air and yelling as if I was in the middle of a fight. My heart is pounding as sweat slowly builds on the back of my neck and tears flow from my eyes. I wonder Is this the moment when most people give up/give in? Do they, at this point in the fight, invite the enemy to finish his job and completely destroy? In my 28 years I have never found myself suicidal. I don’t desire death but at this moment I am looking for relief. Longing for the exit door or escape hatch. I want to walk out of this place and into life. I opened my hands yesterday and asked Jesus to reshape and renew all that I have controlled on my own. I knew He might even choose to take away some of these things. I find myself grieving at even the thought of it. I invited Jesus here, but the enemy showed up. I guess he wants to take a crack at me again. It’s been nearly a decade since he last tortured me to this degree. I can’t imagine how far he’ll go to destroy me this time.
But oh, my heart was flawed
I knew my weakness
So hold my hand
Subscribe me not to darkness
And I fall short
And I fall short
And I fall short
And I fall short
I hum another familiar tune in an attempt to drown out the Hendrix song that seems to be getting louder and louder. I close my eyes unafraid because I realize it’s so dark I can’t see anyway.
But your soul you must keep, totally free.
Awake my soul.
These words roll off my tongue. I begin to speak them loudly. Over and over. My soul longs to be free. I cry out to be woken from this deep sleep my spirit has been in. Awake my soul.
I open my eyes and look across the room. The fog is less heavy and I can see the mirror hanging on the wall. I slowly pick myself up and walk towards it. My body, my feet feel heavy. It feels as if I’m moving in slow motion. I stand directly in front of the mirror and see the woman staring back at me. She’s broken. Empty. Full of fear. I recognize her. It’s been years since I last saw her, but here she is again. In this moment I am reminded of something a friend said to me just days ago. Reality never changes. Only our perception of it can change. The reality is, yes, I am broken. I live in this beautiful mess of life. But my perception has changed. I once believed I was strong; that I could conquer anything. For the past day I have lived in this fog, weak and unable to escape it. I have searched for Jesus but can’t seem to find Him. But I know He’s here. He hasn’t left me alone in this. The reality is although I am broken, I still am loved. I am a child of the Almighty. That hasn’t changed. I’ve just chosen to focus on what I don’t have, who I am not, what I want instead of what I do have, who I was created to be and what I need.
I take a deep breath and ask Him again, “Lord, where are you? Reveal yourself.”
I focus on my breathing, quickly in, slowly out, it steadies and I feel the fear escaping. For the first time since this darkness overwhelmed me, I begin to feel loved. I look around the room. Then I stand up and walk down the hallway. And there He is, standing just outside the bathroom door with arms wide open. I quickly run towards Him and collapse in His arms. I wept for a long time. I feel embraced, loved and rescued. I don’t ever want this feeling to end. I open my eyes and notice through the windows that the sun is setting. This whole time there was light all around me, yet I couldn’t see through my own darkness. I woke up this morning, still lying on the hallway floor. I can’t fully explain this experience except to say that I am aware of at least four things:
Yesterday I encountered the enemy in a way I will never forget and I pray I never have to experience again.
I fought for love and against fear. The enemy may have won many of the small battles, but in the end he lost.
Jesus was always there. He never left. And He never will leave me.
This retreat, this experience, this journey through my own personal hell, has radically changed me. I’m still shaken up by it, but I am confident that it will change the way I live. It will change the way I move forward in my pursuit of wholeness. It will change the way I give and receive love.
My hands are still open. I now trust God and His plan for me. I’m not afraid of what He may do. I desire to love and trust more. I now want to fight to see my dignity held and respected. This weekend feels like an ending to something, but the beginning of something even greater. I’m now ready to be the woman God created me to be.